Victoria’s Attorney-General has called for prominent social commentator Bettina Arndt to be stripped of her Order of Australia award, arguing her “dangerous” views are an insult to sexual abuse victims.
- Victoria’s Attorney-General says controversial commentator Bettina Arndt’s Order of Australia award is hurtful to victims
- Arndt has described Jill Hennessy’s views as “ludicrous” and claims she wants a “level playing field” for men and women
- Arndt has been accused of misrepresenting herself as a doctor, but says she is the victim of a “smear campaign”
Jill Hennessy has written to Governor-General David Hurley asking the Council of the Order of Australia to consider cancelling the award on the basis that Ms Arndt’s public commentary brought the order into disrepute.
Ms Arndt was recognised on Australia Day for “significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men.”
But Ms Hennessy accused her of sympathising with a convicted paedophile and blaming and shaming victims of abuse in public commentary and media appearances.
“Ms Arndt’s views and activities diminish the devastating experiences of victim-survivors of family and sexual violence, promote division and discourage victim-survivors from taking steps to ensure their survival and safety,” Ms Hennessy wrote.
‘Outrage and insult’
Ms Arndt has previously courted controversy by releasing an interview with convicted rapist, Nicolaas Bester, entitled “Feminists persecute disgraced teacher”.
In August last year she also criticised a Victorian Court of Appeal decision to uphold a guilty verdict in the rape case against Cardinal George Pell.
“Never any hope of justice for George Pell,” Ms Arndt wrote on Twitter.
“He was too big a scalp for the howling mob.”
Ms Hennessy said Members of the Order of Australia are meant to be about recognising the “best of our nation” such as Chrissie Forster, who campaigns against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and Rosie Batty, who campaigns against family violence.
Ms Hennessy told ABC Radio Melbourne she felt compelled to contact the Governor-General, even though Ms Arndt lives in New South Wales.
“I had been contacted by a range of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse who felt such outrage and insult to their experience, that I felt I had to take some action to give voice to that,” she said.
“We very strongly take up our responsibilities as advocates for victims of child sexual abuse, and that’s been a very firm area of reform for our government.”
Ms Hennessy said she was yet to hear back from the Governor-General.
Arndt hits back at ‘ludicrous’ claims
Ms Arndt, who describes herself as “one of Australia’s first sex therapists”, described Ms Hennessy’s claims as “ludicrous”.
Ms Arndt accused the Attorney-General of taking previous comments out of context, and told ABC Radio Melbourne she was the victim of a smear campaign by journalist Nina Funnell.
Funnell, who has previously won awards for her stories on sex abuse at universities, co-authored a New Matilda investigative piece that alleged Ms Arndt had falsely portrayed herself as a psychologist and doctor.
“As soon as my award was announced, she went into bat, spreading half-truths, using selected abstracts from videos I’ve made to malign me and defame me in every way possible,” Ms Arndt said.
Ms Arndt said she sought to discuss the “real picture” of domestic violence, “where our official evidence shows at least a third of the victims are male”.
“That is the real cause of the outrage here — that I have been telling the truth about what’s happening, not only in terms of domestic violence … [but] on a range of issues where men are not getting fair treatment,” she said.
“I believe most people listening to me are keen on a level playing field, where men and women get fair treatment.”
Ms Arndt also defended her stance on sexual abuse, saying it did “not always have lasting consequences”.
“Sexual abuse absolutely can be devastating and I’ve always acknowledged that we need to care for victims who’ve suffered these experiences,” she said.
“As the research shows, there are degrees of experiences.
“There’s a difference having someone briefly pat your breast, or rape you.”